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Program note: Epicene Women Claire Nash

  • Claire Nash
  • Source: The Song Company MODART07

Claire Nash is a singer and composer originally from Feilding, New Zealand.
She graduated as a composer and singer from the University of Auckland School
of Music. A regular performer of contemporary vocal music, Claire has
performed as a soloist with The Karlheinz Company, the Auckland Chamber
Orchestra, the North Shore Youth Orchestra, Stroma, The Committee, and
Vitamin S; and has given talks on contemporary vocal music and performed for
the Asia Pacific Festival and Conference and the Nelson Composers'Workshop.
Claire's compositions have been played by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
and the University of Auckland Orchestra, and she recently spoke at the
Melbourne lnternational Animation Festival about her collaboration with New
Zealand animator Janette Goodey.

The piece was written with support from Creative New Zealand. lt was inspired
by the Golden Years permanent exhibit at Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington,
Giacometti's Women of Venice, and a photocopy of an old poster from the early
1900s. Giacometti's striking sculptures of emaciated figures became the starting
point for a group of performers stationed about the stage in a similar way, as
individual entities who come to life at random and channel voices from the past.
ln the Golden Years exhibit, patrons are lead into a junk shop that has closed for
the day to find items coming to life in a display of a plotted history of New
Zealand. The composer then came across a copy of Henry Wright's infamous
poster from the early 1900s cautioning women to abandon exercising any
political assertions whatsoever. The poster read:

Electioneering Women are requested not to call here
They are recommended to go home, to look after their children,
cook their husbands' dinners, empty the slops, and generally
attend to the domestic affairs for which nature intended them.
By taking this advice they will gain the respect of all right-minded
people - an end not to be attained by unsexing themselves and meddling
in masculine concerns of which they are profoundly ignorant.
Henry Wright,
103 Mein Street,

The composer writes'. "Despite my amusement at these ridiculous sentiments I
was struck by the use of the word 'epicene', implying that women who involved
themselves in politics must not really be women. lt occurred to me that, despite
the extraordinary amounts of courage and hard work from women of the past to
be seen as equals with men, many women today unwittingly foster oppression by
adhering to gender stereotypes. ln this piece l've played with aspects of
bitchiness, misogynism, the unaffectedness of growing up rurally, TV
commercials, crackly old radio songs, and the determination of women intent on
having their voices heard."


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